Creative Chunking: Modularity Increases Prototyping Quantity, Creative Self-Efficacy and Cognitive Flow

Year: 2015
Editor: Amaresh Chakrabarti, Toshiharu Taura and Yukari Nagai
Author: Sadler, J.; Shluzas, L.; Blikstein, P.; Katila, R.
Institution: 1Mechanical Engineering Department, Stanford University, Stanford, USA, 2School of Education and Computer Science Department, Stanford University, Stanford, USA and 3Managment Science and Engineering Department, Stanford University, Stanford, USA
Section: Design Creativity Practice
Page(s): 114-123
ISBN: 978-1-904670-60-5


Prototyping intermediate solutions to a creative challenge is a core design skill. However for technical novices, the process of including electronic components in prototypes can hamper the creative process with technical details. Software and electronic modules can reduce the amount of work a designer must perform in order to express an idea, by condensing the number of choices into a physical and cognitive “chunk.” This paper presents the results of a creative prototyping study (N=86) that explores the question: “How does prototyping tool modularity influence the creative design process?” Using a browser-based crowd platform (Amazon’s Mechanical Turk), participants created electric “creature circuits” with LEDs in a virtual prototyping environment. We found that increasing the modularity of LED components (i) increased the quantity of prototypes created and the quantity of LEDs used by study participants; and (ii) increased participants’ degree of perceived self-efficacy, self-reported creative feeling, and cognitive flow. The results highlight the importance of tool modularity in creative prototyping.

Keywords: Prototyping, Interaction Design, Modularity, Self-Efficacy, Flow


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